Can community organisations revive the seaside town?

A new Locality report says there have already been successes in coastal areas and repeats its call for communities to be given control of regeneration funds

A new report from Locality says community organisations are driving regeneration in the UK’s coastal towns.

Locality – a national network of more than 500 community organisations – says seaside towns have struggled with “structural economic weaknesses” leaving them with “higher levels of health inequality and unemployment, lack of investment in public services and infrastructure”.

Many have also suffered hard from the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

In its Transforming Britain’s Seaside Towns report, Locality says previous government attempts to regenerate these towns failed because they “ failed to recognise the power within them”.

“Sustainable change requires long-term investment and crucially, trust in community-led solutions,” it argues – and gives evidence of successful community schemes which are “transforming coastal communities, restoring hope and pride in these ‘left-behind’ areas”

“From Hastings to Amble to Great Yarmouth, these organisations have been leading the way in job creation, affordable housing provision, and environmentally sustainable regeneration,” it says.  

Locality is using the report to back its campaign – also backed by Co-operatives UK and Plunkett Foundation – for the government to give local community led partnerships have control of at least 25% of total funding in the upcoming UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

It adds: “We are also calling for government to establish a national Community Ownership Fund, which was a commitment from the 2019 Tory manifesto. This would help  save distressed local assets and put derelict spaces back into community use.” 

The report cites a number of successes by the community sector:

  • Amble Development Trust in Northumberland has helped put local jobs and skills at the heart of the town’s sustainable tourism model. This includes a community-owned lobster hatchery which both helps sustain the local lobster population and provide local jobs and training in a skilled industry.  
  • In Hastings, East Sussex, the community sector is giving residents a stake in the regeneration of their seaside resort town. This includes the Hastings Commons, formerly derelict buildings that have been renovated by the community and now provide affordable housing, retail and workspace.  
  • Newquay Orchard in Cornwall, a seven-acre community space in the centre of town, developed by volunteers as a place for environmental education and wellbeing.

Locality CEO Tony Armstrong said: “Community organisations are harnessing the strengths, hope and creativity in coastal places to quietly transform their streets and towns.  

“From renovating derelict buildings to provide local affordable housing in Hastings, to a community-owned lobster hatchery in Northumberland supporting skilled jobs and training in the fisheries industry, community organisations are leading the way in regenerating seaside towns.   

“Many coastal communities have faced significant challenges around social and economic decline for many years. Successive governments have tried and failed to shift these trends through top-down initiatives. But our new research shows that to achieve sustainable change requires putting power and resources in the hands of those who truly understand the issues – local communities themselves.” 

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